May in the Philippines is also known as the Fiesta month. During this time different regions in the country play hosts as they highlight their region’s specialties while giving thanks to their respective Patron Saints for all the blessings during the year.
Now May is also the month wherein we celebrate the special ladies in our lives – our moms!
For this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club Challenge, we will present the regional specialties prepared by our moms during the Fiesta Celebration.
Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and it’s colourful cuisine. Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino food as we do.
Last Sunday our Baranggay celebrated their Fiesta (which I missed.. again!). During this time, my mom often takes a day off from cooking and we troop to our relatives to maki-fiesta (which means we eat and get takeaway for free in exchange for greeting them “Happy Fiesta!). As we live in Manila, we don’t really have a specialty dish like most regional areas do. The feast would be a mish mash of different dishes (that often don’t go well with each other.. hehe!) home-cooked and bought and almost always ending with a karaoke session with my uncle singing “Fernando” a few times (each version sounding different – worst – from the last!).
I spent most of my growing up years in Mandaluyong, so did my mom, whereas my dad grew up in Pasay. We don’t have a province.. well we lived in Angono for a while (is that even considered a province? Or just a faraway suburb?) as my dad really wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. But in the end we moved back to Mandaluyong as most of our movements are based there.
One of the more popular food establishments that Mandaluyong was famous for while I was growing up was Tonangs which specializes in Pancit Palabok. I’m not sure if they’re still open.. (actually.. I just checked online and they have a Facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/tonangspancitpalabok How about that?!) I remember Sandy Daza featuring them on one of his cooking shows when I was younger (yes.. while most kids take advantage of weekend mornings to get some extra sleeping time, I wake up early to watch Cooking with the Daza’s). My mom loved their pancit and we would often stop their on the way home from school to eat merienda or take away a bilao for dinner (during that time it was one of the few restaurants/eating establishments in our area, together with the giant Lugawan along Mandaluyong City Hall Circle that is now occupied by Jollibee/Greenwich). Come to think of it, it has been a while since I had some Tonangs Pancit, as heaps of establishments have popped in our area, but now that I am being a bit senti I will make it a point to visit this place when I go home – adding this on my TO DO list now.
Pancit is a staple dish that’s always present in Filipino celebrations and Fiestas are no exceptions. Here’s how I make my Pancit Palabok. Again really sorry as I don’t have exact measurements :
Saute garlic and onions in annatto (achuete) oil. Add some flour and stir until it’s well blended. Now add in some shrimp broth (made from boiling pounded shrimp heads and skin – which flesh you will use later on as a topping). Season with some fish sauce and pepper. This needs to have a thick consistency – which you can achieve by adding more flour (or cornstarch) in.
I like using rice noodles (the fat kind) instead of bihon noodles (which makes my Palabok more of a Pancit Malabon – am I right in assuming that they are the same, save for some difference in toppings, apart from the noodles?). Just follow packet instructions when cooking them but I find that soaking them makes it soggy. So I just add them in briskly boiling water and keep a close eye until it’s cooked.
For toppings, I go with squid rings (quickly cooked in boiling water), shelled prawns (which can either be cooked by boiling or a quick fry with a bit of oil), fried chopped garlic (I saw on a Thai cooking show once that the secret to crunchy golden fried garlic is by putting them in as soon as you put the oil in the pan and cooking it slowly, instead of adding them to already hot oil), chopped spring onions, sliced boiled egg (but as you can see on the photo below, I went for the lazy option and used canned quail eggs instead) and crushed chicharon (pork rind). I don’t like tinapa on my pancit but I know some do. Other topping options are sliced boiled pork and fried tokwa (firm tofu).
Now that everything’s cooked, it’s just a matter of putting them all together and adding some calamansi (or in my case lemon) before serving. Best eaten with some puto (which I made using my much-loved Daza cookbook).
Now excuse me while I have some Fiesta Pancit😉